At Brown & Brothers, we are often asked questions about the numerous factors that contribute to medical malpractice and birth injuries. Recently, we have been pondering the question, “Can estimating my baby’s size reduce the risk of birth injuries?” In this post, we have decided to specifically address how the size of your infant can impact childbirth, and how asking questions about your baby’s size can help you prepare.
Can You Estimate the Size of an Unborn Baby?
There are often conflicting opinions about the accuracy of tools used to estimate the size of an unborn baby. Variables like the gestational age can impact whether your baby is measured as being large, small, or on target for his or her gestational age.
Science, however, does offer some helpful tests that can help determine your baby’s size and weight. These tests include:
- Ultrasound: Ultrasounds are a routine part of monitoring pregnancy, and are one of the first tools used to measure the size of an unborn baby. During an ultrasound, the technician can take measurements of the baby’s body, head, femur, and spine. These measurements can then be used to estimate weight as well.
- Mathematical Equations: Researchers are increasingly using a mathematical equation to estimate the size and/or weight of an unborn baby. Using measurements like the stage of pregnancy, height and weight of the mother, weight gained during the third trimester, fetal sex, and number of siblings, researchers have been able to predict birth weight within 15 percent of the actual weight in 87 percent of births.
Signs your Baby May be too Large
It is often difficult to detect problems with your baby’s size or weight during pregnancy. It is important that your healthcare provider performs all routine tests and examinations, and takes appropriate action if he or she believes that your child’s size could be a risk factor. Some of the potential signs that your baby may be too large include:
- Large Fundal Height: Your fundal height is the distance between your pubic bone and the top of your uterus. If this measurement is larger than expected for the gestational age, your baby may be larger than average.
- Polyhydramnios: Excessive amniotic fluid can also be a sign that your baby is larger than average. Amniotic fluid is produced to protect your baby during pregnancy, and an excessive amount could be an indicator that your baby is larger than average. The level of amniotic fluid can also be an indicator of your baby’s urine output. A larger baby will produce larger amounts of urine.
Other signs that healthcare providers should consider when measuring the size and health of your baby include your overall health, genetics, conditions like obesity or diabetes, or fetal medical conditions. Careful monitoring and taking the correct action when variables arise is the first line of defense against birth injuries.
Birth injuries often result in emotional and psychological trauma, extensive medical bills, and in some cases, a lifetime of continuing medical care. The consequences may be furthered if your baby’s injuries were caused by the negligence of a healthcare provider in adequately recognizing and treating potentially dangerous medical situations. If you are concerned about birth injuries and negligent healthcare, contact Brown & Brothers to learn more.
Why Size Matters During Childbirth
During childbirth, the size of your baby can be a tremendous factor in how the process unfolds. Whether the baby is small or large for his or her gestational age, size matters a lot! One of the most concerning elements of size during childbirth is the fact that large babies (8.8 pounds or more) are more likely to struggle during labor and delivery, and the risk of complications to mother and child increases. Babies that are 8 pounds, 13 ounces or more are considered to have “fetal macrosomia“.
Fetal macrosomia presents risks to both the mother and child, and those risks increase the larger the baby is. According to the Mayo Clinic, possible complications of fetal macrosomia include:
- Problems with Labor: Large babies may become wedged in the birth canal leading to birth injuries, maternal injuries, or may require assistive tools (vacuum, forceps), or a Cesarean section (c-section).
- Uterine Rupture: Women who have had previous uterine surgery or c-sections are particularly at risk for this rare but serious complication. A uterine rupture occurs when the uterus tears open at the point of scars from previous surgeries.
- Genital Tract Lacerations: Fetal macrosomia can cause damage to the birth canal, including tearing of tissue or muscles along the vaginal walls, or the perineum.
- Bleeding: Fetal macrosomia increases the risk of improper uterine muscle contraction after delivery, which can result in potentially dangerous bleeding after delivery.
- Newborn Health Risks: Complications of fetal macrosomia that may affect your newborn include an increased risk for him or her to develop abnormal blood sugar levels, childhood obesity, or metabolic syndrome.
These potential risks of fetal macrosomia are only a few examples of the possible dangers. Every medical situation is different, and you should contact your healthcare provider with any questions you have about the health of you and your baby.
How to Stay Healthy During Pregnancy
The factors that contribute to a larger than average baby vary considerably. To stay healthy during your pregnancy, keep track of your overall health, and consider the following:
- Maintaining a healthy weight, and gaining a healthy amount of weight during your pregnancy can reduce your chances of having a larger than average baby.
- Complete routine testing for gestational diabetes, and notify your doctor if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes prior to becoming pregnant. If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar throughout pregnancy will be important.
- Remember that accurately measuring fetal size and weight is difficult. If your doctor believes that your baby will be large, you may want to discuss interventions like induction or planned c-section before the labor and delivery process begins.
One of the best things you can do to stay healthy during your pregnancy is to trust your instincts. If you feel like you aren’t getting answers to your questions, or your care is not to the level of quality you believe it should be – it might be time for a second opinion.
Have Questions about Birth Injuries?
If you have questions about birth injuries, their causes, symptoms, or treatment, explore the many resources that Brown & Brothers has to offer, or contact us by completing our online form. We are dedicated to helping families get the information and answers they need.